Birdwatch & Insects, Autumn-Winter 2017

Steve Jones rounds off the year, puzzled by the absence of some birds he expected to see.

Common Scarlet Darter Dragonfly Common Scarlet Darter Dragonfly Photo: Steve Jones

As we came into Autumn there was the expected movement, with lots of finches appearing, predominantly Chaffinch, Goldfinch with a few interspersed Serin, feeding on seed heads. I am always on the lookout for Brambling amongst the Chaffinch but it seems I have to make to do with the two sightings in early January. The Serin pictured below was at the pond (which still had very little water after the hot dry summer). The picture came out better than I was expecting, even though I was looking into the sun. I think it is probably a male in winter plumage, which becomes incredibly bright in Spring time.

Serin, 18th October 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

October 13th: Still seeing odd Swallows and this morning a Swift. Lots of Wagtails on the airfield, up to 50, and this week a big movement of Stonechats which I didn’t notice at all last year. I've seen 30 - 40 at various locations this week. I was very pleased with this picture of the goldfinch / gardelin - you really don't get too much closer than this. I took about 20 shots this morning, slowly edging closer, shielded by some grape vines.

Goldfinch, October 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

In October, 'Nature' journal publicized a report from Denmark1 showing changes in breeding patterns as well as a decline in numbers of starlings (sturnusa vulgaris) in a long-term study. Over 45 years from 1971 to 2015, dairy farmer Peder V. Thellesen logged the habits of the birds, which had 27 nesting boxes on his property2. The changes are attributed largely to climate change, and give cause for worry. Similarly, I know of in-depth studies of curlew on Dartmoor, which have suggested that curlew in the south of England could be extinct within 7 years, unless something is done. the situation is complex, but in this case predation is apparently the biggest problem.

October 18th: I saw a Swift two days ago at Jelsa fire station. There are still lots moving, most notably Stonechats. I have also seen several Pipits, but have not been able to get anywhere near close enough for a decent picture. Sparrow Hawks have been about regularly, but again they have escaped the camera. Robins are back in large numbers, and they are the most prominent singers at the moment. Robins may well be here throughout the year, but if they are, they're certainly not obvious.

Robin, December 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

October 19th: There was a flock of 20 plus Starlings at airfield this morning. Oddly, I hadn't seen one in all the time I had been going there until January/February of this year (I even mentioned this when we did an interview for the magazine Dobra Kob at the beginning of the year). And now this is the second lot I have seen this Autumn. What a surprise!

Starlings, 19th October 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

Towards the end of October I had another first for me and the island – Wood Lark, there were up to seven on the airfield for around a week.

Wood lark, October 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

Blackcaps seemed to be actively feeding on the remaining figs. I did manage a glimpse of another new species, a Firecrest.

Firecrest. Photo: John Ball

Stonechats were clearly passing through for about 10 days, I saw them regularly regularly down near the pond. Up to 50 Pied Wagtails were on the airfield amongst occasional pipits and Yellow Wagtails, and I was still seeing the odd Swallow and Swifts well into October. (A Grey Wagtail was often to be seen in Stari Grad, but he has not provided me with a decent picture). It's worth noting that 'pied wagtail' used to be the general term for two groups of birds which were very similar, whereas nowadays it's more usual to differentiate between 'pied wagtails' and 'white wagtails'. In fact most of the the ones on Hvar are white wagtails.

Yellow wagtail, 14th October 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

The latter part of October saw the arrival of Great Tits and Blue Tits. Sparrowhawks and Buzzards were also seen now on an almost daily basis, but both were extremely uncomfortable near the camera.

Buzzard, Dol, November 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

October 29th: I am 99% sure I had a Goldcrest the other day. I am not 100% certain, but fellow bird-watching enthusiast John Ball had a definite sighting with a fine photograph to prove it on October 13th, from the beach by the Senses resort in Vrboska, where he was staying. So Goldcrest is included in the year's list of sightings, bringing the total to just above 90 species for the year. Say I miss about 10% the true figure could be close to 100 species for the year.

Goldcrest, October 2017. Photograph: John Ball

This week saw the return of Black Redstarts (I first saw them on 2nd November last year, 2016). There were still Tawny Pipits on airfield and at last I managed a picture this week - not a brilliant one, but good enough for certain identification.

Tawny pipit. Photo: Steve Jones

 Common Darters (dragonflies ) are laying / mating at the remaining water in the pond.

Common darter dragonfly. Photo: Steve Jones

The Grey Wagtail keeps escaping the camera in Stari Grad but I have been seeing and hearing it most days now. Yesterday I saw good numbers of Clouded Yellow butterflies, but as for getting one on the camera ........... Ummmmm.

In November I started using the little bird feeding station I had created. Initially it was all very quiet, but once they got used to the food they started to come in numbers. I was inundated with Great Tits - up to 20 at one time -, also Blue Tits and Chaffinch.

Blue tit, November 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

A very occasional Dunnock appeared, also a Wren (but I have not been lucky enough to get a decent photograph of him yet). There were a few Black Redstarts around, but they didn't come to the feeders.

Great tit, November 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

In early December I was delighted with another new species on the Island - Hawfinch. I had only seen one briefly in the UK once before. I managed to see three in the following days, but not close enough for a picture, until I managed this on the 12th December.

Hawfinch, 12th December 2017. Photo: Steve Jones

December 19th. My feeding station has proved to be very successful, I could easily get rid of 1kg of bird food in a day (and at 18 kuna a kilo I am rationing it somewhat)!! It is interesting how the birds come in waves, appearing in grouops of 20 - 30, although there are mainly just three species. They feed just for a few minutes and then are gone. I suspect it is a strategy to fool the neighbouring cats, as three have taken to lying in wait at the bottom of the feeder or in a tree nearby.

I have still been hearing the Wren in the neighbourhood, but he's escaped the camera so far. I am sure I will get a picture at some stage during the winter. As we passed the shortest day you may well have noticed how the Blackbird was more prominent, starting to feed on the ivy berries. Before long they would be actively singing as the New Year begins………………. Bringing with it another list of bird species sightings!

With the end of another year upon us, it seems I have to settle for 93 species sighted in 2017, not the 100 I had been hoping for. I accept from the areas I cover I could have missed several species, but on balance, given the frequency with which I have visited “my patch” I am happy with what I have recorded. I don’t do any sea-watching – for no other reason than on the times I have tried, it has offered little, which is surprising. I am also puzzled as to why certain “common” species aren’t seen on the island, such as Magpie, Jay, Crow and Jackdaw, which I was used to seeing in large numbers in the UK. However, here there are lots of Hooded Crows, which are very apparent at the moment, so maybe they do the job of all those others. I also have not seen Long Tailed Tits or Coal Tits at all, and Blue Tits are rare, appearing only in single numbers. I am planning a couple of trips to the mainland in 2018 for some bird watching – it may just be to do with the location of the island.

© Steve Jones 2017

References:

1. Fox, A., Heldbjerg, H. 2017. Ornothology: Danish dairy farmer delivers data coup. Nature, 550, 333 (19 October 2017) doi:10.1038/550333b

2. Thellesen, P.V. 2017. Kuldstørrelse og yngletidspunkt hos Stær i Sydvestjylland, 1971-2015. Dansk Ornitol. Foren. Tidsskr. 111, 87-95.

For more of Steve's nature pictures, see his personal pages: Bird Pictures on Hvar 2017, and Butterflies of Hvar

You are here: Home Nature Watch Birdwatch & Insects, Autumn-Winter 2017

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Rising heat and humidity threatening to plunge much of the world’s population into potentially lethal conditions, study finds

    The climate crisis is pushing the planet’s tropical regions towards the limits of human livability, with rising heat and humidity threatening to plunge much of the world’s population into potentially lethal conditions, new research has found.

    Related:'It is the question of the century': will tech solve the climate crisis – or make it worse?

    Continue reading...

  • The disembodied head of the sacoglossan sea slug feasts on algae while its old body decomposes, and a new one grows

    If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then it’s unlikely that you are a sacoglossan sea slug (apologies to Rudyard Kipling).

    Scientists in Japan have discovered that this species of sea slug can decapitate itself and then regrow an entirely new body, complete with a beating heart and other vital organs.

    Continue reading...

  • Investigation questions eco-friendly claims of incineration industry

    When it comes to planet-friendly habits, recycling is by far the UK’s most popular, with 87% of householders claiming they do so regularly, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme. But an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches into where our rubbish goes, and the role played by energy-from-waste incineration plants, has found that millions of tonnes of our carefully sorted empties are simply being burned after they’re collected.

    Freedom of information requests reveal that, on average, 11% of rubbish collected for recycling is incinerated. In some areas the figures are far higher: 45% in Southend-on-Sea and 38% in Warwickshire.

    Continue reading...

  • As more women leave rural areas for cities, course forms part of drive to revive villages

    The rugged pathways crisscross Spain, sprawling across an estimated 1% of its territory. Etched into the land over centuries, the country’s livestock roads have long been the domain of solitary men leading their flocks to lush pastures.

    Now a new initiative is looking to change this with the launch of the country’s first shepherding school for women. The aim of the School for Shepherdesses of the 21st Century is twofold: offering women a foothold in a trade long dominated by men, while also throwing a lifeline to the thousands of Spanish towns that are slowly fading from the map.

    Continue reading...

  • With the help of botanists, Daan Roosegaarde has created a ‘light recipe’ for a field of leeks to help the plants grow better

    By day, the field of leeks looks like any other. But, as the sun sets, blue and red light, mixed with invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation, transforms the scene into a multicoloured landscape.

    This LED light show is not just for effect. For a couple of hours every evening the lights are shone across the 20,000sq metre field in Lelystad in the Netherlands in a bid to make the leeks grow better. In a light installation that brings art and science together, four solar-powered units emit a tailor-made spectrum across the leafy vegetables.

    Continue reading...

  • Joiningthe workforce in Cornwall’s flower fields, I struggled to keep up in the rush to bring in a fragile crop post-Brexit

    It’s the kind of day when the cloud is so thick that a heavy greyness hangs in the air. But not in the fields of Fentongollan Farm in Cornwall, where swathes of yellow roll down the hillside, brightening the dull sky with spring cheer. Fentongollan is one of the world’s leading daffodil farms, growing globally renowned varieties that are a dazzling sight in full bloom.

    “Yes, they do look nice, the yellow fields,” says Frances Hosking, 22, showing me around the land her family has farmed for generations. “But yellow fields are not good for us growers – they are a sign the crop hasn’t been picked. The flowers should be harvested before they have opened up – we want the fields to stay green.”

    Continue reading...

  • Allendale, Northumberland: Soon these ‘mad’ hares will be less wary as their mating instincts take over. Then the males will chase the females full pelt through these upland fields

    We saw their tracks in the February snow, sensing energy in the mass of overlaying prints. Swirling, twisting and doubling back, they were evidence that brown hares, Lepus europaeus, had been having some wild party. Now, with the snow gone, I have to rely on sightings to know what they are up to, but brown hares are clever at hiding themselves, even out in the open.

    I watch one crossing the field. Every time the hare pauses, it stops beside a clump of dead thistles. Without seeing it move, I would never spot it among the dull stalks and the faded rushes. Sometimes it flattens down, camouflaged as a molehill or a heap from the muckspreader.

    Continue reading...

  • Temperatures as low as -40C in Russia may be behind a rise in large flocks in the UK as they escape the cold

    Driving through Ripon, North Yorkshire, last week, Hayley Blaymires was surprised to see thousands of birds swoop in spectacular formations across the sky.

    She had heard people talking about starling murmurations, which this year have been happening unusually close to the centre of Ripon, but this was the first time she was seeing them for herself.

    Continue reading...

  • Cyclone Winston devastated vital coral colonies off Fiji, but four years on, the reefs are alive again, teeming with fish and colour

    In the immediate aftermath of the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in the southern hemisphere, reefs across the Namena reserve and Vatu-i-Ra conservation park off Fiji were reduced to rubble.

    Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Fiji on 20 February 2016, causing devastation on land and underwater. Winds of up to 280km/h claimed 44 lives, leaving more than 40,000 homes damaged or destroyed, and storm surges smashed reefs in their path. Winston caused US$1.4bn in damage, the most destructive cyclone ever in the Pacific.

    Continue reading...

  • Expanding dairy herds have seen surplus male calves shipped to the continent for veal, but there is unease over welfare conditions

    Irish authorities have announced plans to fly unweaned dairy calves from Ireland to other EU destinations from May, in an effort to address growing unease about the length of the journeys made by thousands of animals shipped each year to mainland Europe.

    The Irish government has been subject to sustained scrutiny over live calf exports and the decision to experiment with flights, which will significantly cut travel time, comes as a European parliament committee of inquiry examines alleged failures across Europe in enforcing rules on protecting transported animals.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds

Feed not found.